Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Galatians 3:10-14 "But, officer, I didn't know. . ."

At the beginning of every new year, our local paper publishes a list of new laws going into effect in California. It’s always daunting to read through them! I understand that I am supposed to know and obey these laws, because ignorance of the law is no defense. I found an article online from January of 2012 that said there were 40,000 NEW laws added to the books within the United States that year alone! Imagine! And that doesn’t even come close to the total already in force. Why does it take so many? No one could possibly be held accountable for knowing and obeying all of those laws! Yet, break one and your likely to be fined or sent to jail!

So, I find it amazing that God was able to narrow His Law down to ten commandments, and Jesus managed to sum up even those ten with just two:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

And yet, we still have trouble even managing to obey just those two! The rich young ruler who met Jesus was sure he had nailed it in keeping the law:

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”  Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)

Jesus did not try to argue with the young man about whether or not he actually had kept those laws, but He certainly had him on the first law of loving God more than anything else. The rich young ruler, like us, loved his stuff too much to give it all away to follow Jesus. This is the trouble with trying to gain righteousness by keeping the Law. We just can’t! And this is why Paul insists in his letter to the Galatians that the person trying to keep the Law is doomed to failure - even cursed:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”  Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14)

Paul wonders that anyone would choose to rely on the Law. Me, too! I’m so grateful that it is not my faithfulness to keep it that guarantees my favor with God, and I’m also so thankful that my continued walk with God is based on HIS faithfulness!

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)


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